I'm a commuting cyclist, what would be called a ‘choice' rider. I have the option to drive, but I choose to commute by bike. I've been commuting by bicycle since 2011. Before I was commuting to work by choice, I was commuting to campus by necessity. When I moved out to Oklahoma for college, I didn't have a car for 6 years. After a year of living on campus, I bought a bike so I could get between the apartment, campus, and work. If somewhere was too far to get to by bike, I would ride the bus or ask a friend for a ride.
Today I own a car, but it's actually parked in the same spot most of the week. Most of the places I need to go (library, bank, grocery store, etc.) are about a quarter mile away from me, so I walk. My job is a lot farther than walking distance, so I commute by bike. If it's raining or too hot or too cold for my liking, I can hop on the bus. If I need to run a quick errand or have an appointment to make, I can drive. I recognize that I'm fortunate enough to choose how I travel. Right now, I live in an area of Tulsa where I can do that. I understand that not everyone can live in a location where conveniences are close, so I remind myself to be grateful.
I know there are plenty of reasons why people don't ride a bicycle. It's too far, it's not safe, they enjoy the drive, and of course you feel like a sweat monster by the end of it. I'm not going to try to convince you to ride – though my solution for the last reason: hand sanitizer and baby wipes – but let me tell you why I choose to ride instead of drive. I get my exercise (no need to go to the gym); I get some fresh air; there's one less car on the street; I'm saving money on gas, insurance, and maintenance on my car; and it's just fun.
To me, nature sounds much nicer than blaring horns and revving engines. My commute is full of the sounds of chirping birds, the rushing water of the Arkansas River flowing, the wind in the trees, and the laughter and joyful squeals of children at The Gathering Place. I've seen rabbits, cardinals, blue jays, herons, mourning doves, turtles, and rat snakes. I've watched the Oklahoma redbuds and dogwoods bloom; I've noticed trees come down as housing developments are built; and I watched the Arkansas River swell in the 2019 flooding event. I've noticed how the temperature affects the number of people on the trails and I've raced thunderstorms home (and won!). Sounds romantic, right?
That romantic, whimsical atmosphere changes as soon as you hit the streets near downtown. To get to work, I take the River Trails and Midland Valley Trail, and then take 18th over to Main Street. It's hard to ignore how vulnerable a cyclist is on the wide streets, but I do what I can to avoid as many near misses as possible (and I've had a few). I wear bright clothes, wear my helmet, have my lights flashing, use hand signals and obey traffic signs, and ride at quieter times. Cyclists have every right to use the road as a driver does and we need to use those streets in the same way a driver is expected to. At least we'll never get pulled over for speeding.